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Rees-Mogg tells Sunak to abandon National Insurance rise amid cost of living crunch

“Jacob Rees-Mogg called for the National Insurance rise to be abandoned at Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting as the UK struggles with a cost of living crisis triggered by the pandemic. The Telegraph understands that Mr Rees-Mogg, the House of Commons Leader, spoke out against the tax rise coming into effect this April, but Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, rejected the call. Three government sources familiar with the Cabinet discussions, including one in the room, confirmed the exchange. Advisers to Mr Rees-Mogg and Mr Sunak declined to comment. Calling for a policy that was only announced by the Prime Minister in September to be ditched reflects the scale of concern  from some in the Cabinet about the looming cost of living crunch and tax increases.” – Daily Telegraph

  • He ‘did not get widespread support from other ministers’ – The Guardian

Energy bosses demand £20billion Treasury bailout to keep household bills down

“Fatcat  energy bosses are demanding a Treasury bailout of £20billion to keep household bills down. But Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and Chancellor Rishi Sunak want banks to loan them the cash instead of stinging taxpayers. As the cost of living row exploded in Westminster, MPs from all parties lined up to urge Boris Johnson to step in to protect families from soaring gas and electricity bills this spring. Ministers held crisis talks with suppliers as global gas prices continued to climb. Gas providers gave Mr Kwarteng doomsday warnings they faced going bust if the energy price cap was not lifted in April. Customers are protected by the cap, currently at £1,277 a year on average but that could be raised as high as £1,995. Big energy companies say they cannot survive unless the high prices are passed on to bill payers — or subsidised with a cash injection.” – The Sun

  • Government will step in to help customers facing rocketing energy bills – Daily Mail
  • Discount could be extended to more homes – Daily Telegraph
  • Prime Minister ‘caves to Tory fury with emergency plan’ – Daily Express

Allister Heath: Conversion to Brownism on tax is a betrayal of Middle England

“If Boris Johnson, king of the Brexiteers, slayer of the Red Wall and supposed neo-populist extraordinaire, can’t even cut VAT on fuel, what hope is there for his brand of Toryism? Forget about any kind of recovery after the woes of the past few months: unless he rediscovers his once-fantastic ability to connect with his erstwhile base, 2022 is about to turn into Johnson’s true annus horribilis. Britain isn’t quite Kazakhstan, where the government has just been toppled by rising gas prices, but with the cost of the basic energy tariff due to increase savagely by April, and taxes shooting up, the cost of living is about to become an explosive priority. Yet Johnson, the most profligate peacetime Tory Prime Minister in history, cannot spare the 0.17 per cent of government receipts that it would cost to scrap VAT on fuel, thus breaking another of his promises to his core electorate.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Get finance fit now before any tax changes – Michael Martin, FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: How to cut the cost of living

Johnson hints Plan B Covid curbs will be gone within weeks

“Boris Johnson tonight all-but ruled out another lockdown and held out the prospect of a return ‘closer to normality’ within weeks amid hopes the Omicron wave is already slowing down. As the UK recorded another 194,747 cases – up 6.4 per cent on a week ago – the PM cautioned that the growth is ‘the fastest we have ever known’ and older, more vulnerable people are now being affected. However, he said bluntly that the government ‘does not believe we need to shut down our country again’. Instead  Cabinet has agreed to stick to the existing ‘balanced and proportionate’ Plan B restrictions in England that are ‘taking the edge off’ the Omicron wave. The obligation to work from home where possible, as well as wear masks in many settings and use Covid passes at large events and nightclubs will be reviewed again before they expire on January 26 – but Mr Johnson hinted strongly that they will not be renewed.” – Daily Mail

  • Covid booster jab refuseniks face being denied access to large venues – The Times
  • Rules will remain in place at least three more weeks – The Sun
  • Boost for holidays as Covid travel tests scrapped – The Times

More:

  • Strict Covid curbs ‘less effective’, admits Nicola Sturgeon – Daily Telegraph
  • NHS staffing crisis will hit plans to reduce waiting lists, say MPs – FT

>Today: ToryDiary: The case for cutting the Covid self-isolation period to five days

>Yesterday: Emily Carver’s column: The decision to recommend masks in classrooms is utterly indefensible

Patel to employ X-rays to stop asylum seekers posing as children

“Priti Patel has called in scientific advisers as she tries to roll out X-ray scans for asylum seekers to stop grown men “masquerading as children” on their applications. The number of adult asylum seekers falsely claiming to be children is a “significant issue”, the Home Office claimed as it announced it was setting up a scientific advisory committee to get advice on ways of checking the ages of those arriving in the UK. Last year the department confirmed it was considering using “scientific methods” as part of age assessments on those suspected of lying about how old they are under plans proposed in the Nationality and Borders Bill. A report by the Migration Watch UK think tank last week revealed that two in three of all asylum cases where age was disputed and resolved last year were found to be 18 years of age or older — more than 1,100 asylum seekers.” – The Times

  • UK Border Force could strike over Channel refugee ‘pushback’ plan – The Guardian
  • Union says it is ‘totally opposed’ to Home Secretary’s scheme – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Natalie Elphicke MP in Comment: What to do next about small boat channel crossings

Brexit pay day for farmers lined up as ‘Boris eyes environmental drive’

“British farmers will be rewarded for using land to help the environment under “radical” post-Brexit plans. Farmers previously received grants under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), with grant sizes based on how much land they farmed. The Government hopes to replace this scheme with one that rewards farmers for using their land for other purposes. This will include establishing new nature reserves, restoring floodplains and creating woodlands and wetlands. Whitehall has dubbed its Local Nature Recovery (LNR) scheme as “radical”, bringing the “biggest change to farming and land management in 50 years”. It would like to see 60 percent of England’s agricultural soil under “sustainable management” by 2023.” – Daily Express

  • Farm subsidy reform in England aiming to return land to nature – FT

>Today: Garvan Walshe’s column: The time for fine-tuning Brexit is over. The Government needs to focus on making the most of its own deal.

>Yesterday: Daniel Hannan’s column: Distracted and passive, the Government has yet to grasp the full advantages of Brexit

No 10 party inquiry to name ‘people in charge’

“The official investigation into Downing Street Christmas parties will not blame the junior officials who organised them but will instead identify their bosses, Whitehall insiders believe. Sue Gray, a former Whitehall ethics chief, took charge of the inquiry into alleged rule-breaking last month, shortly after The Times revealed that Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, who had been leading it, had been aware of a Christmas event in his own office. The inquiry was primarily asked to look into claims that staff at No 10 held a party on December 18, 2020, when London was subject to severe restrictions, but will examine other alleged lockdown breaches too. It has been widely reported that the December 18 event was organised by civil servants in a WhatsApp group. But Gray is much likelier to find fault higher up the chain of command, senior figures say.” – The Times

  • Baroness to be quizzed by cops over claim she sent racist text message – The Sun

>Yesterday: Dr Liam Fox MP in Comment: I didn’t vote for Johnson as Tory leader. But now isn’t the time for others to challenge him

Tory MPs attack ‘vandals’ charter’ after Colston verdict

“Protesters have been given the go-ahead to deface controversial monuments after a jury cleared four activists who toppled a statue of slave trader Edward Colston, MPs warned last night. The so-called ‘Colston Four’ were acquitted of criminal damage after the memorial was torn down in Bristol. Critics last night attacked the ‘extraordinary’ verdict as a ‘vandals’ charter’ which they fear could hand other demonstrators a ‘dangerous’ licence to carry out similar acts. However last night government sources insisted the trial would not stop authorities bringing prosecutions against vandals to damaged or defaced statues during political protests… Mr Bone said: ‘It’s a very strange decision. I hope the Government will do everything in its power to make sure there’s no room for people to commit criminal damage on the basis of some woke objective or other.'” – Daly Mail

MoD has wasted £13bn since Tories came to power, Labour claims

“Labour has accused the Ministry of Defence of wasting £13bn of taxpayers’ money since the Conservatives came to power on failed procurement projects, overspends and other administrative errors. The opposition published a 16-page dossier, which it said highlighted a string of examples of financial mismanagement, including £4bn of waste since 2019, the year the current defence secretary, Ben Wallace, was appointed. John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, accused ministers of having “no grip on the MoD’s finances” and said the scale of waste was “significant and systemic”. None of its 36 projects were rated green – “on time and in budget” – according to official Whitehall assessments, he added. The overspends were taken from MoD and other official documents, and some date back to flawed procurement decisions during Labour’s 13 years in government, which ended in 2010.” – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Left Watch: Khan’s push to ‘decriminalise’ Class Bs will make an incoherent approach to drugs even worse

News in Brief:

  • Sarah Vine opens up about her divorce from Michael Gove – Tatler
  • The vaccine passport experiment needs to end – Kate Andrews, The Spectator
  • Trying to lead a life on the right side of the Game Act – Patrick Galbraith, The Critic
  • To build back better, build a police station – Ian Acheson, CapX
  • The curse of the Girlboss – Kat Rosenfeld, UnHerd